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Friday, 27 March 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: More On "Realism"

Perhaps I was a bit hyperbolic in my last post about this, but I stick by the essence of my argument with a slight modification: It seems that in RPGs, either the "realists" are very poor game designers, or the medium of RPGs itself cannot convey the "real" very well.

First of all, no RPG is meant to be a pure simulation. It's meant in its first function to be a game. This is why, shockingly, the best designer of vehicle rules for an RPG is NOT an aerospace engineer. The aerospace engineer might know more about vehicles than anyone else on earth, but in reality the best writer for vehicle rules would be a GOOD GAME DESIGNER.

And also shockingly, "experts" in their given subject are often too obsessed with said subject to maintain perspective as to what makes good game design. That is to say, if he is an expert in computer hacking, he is likely to make "computer hacking rules" so fucking complex that players will have to spend twenty-five minutes and read seven distinct tables of results to complete the action for "my PC turns on his computer".

Now, that means that generally speaking, the concept of game playabilty trumps "realism" every time, EVEN among fans of realistic RPGs. And I stick to my guns in saying that most people who claim they want "realism" in their RPGs really mean that what they want is complex rules that are internally consistent and playable, that help them visualize or complement their experience of the game, and only then within the specific parameters of what interests them.

That's the other thing: people who want what they call "realism" are usually only interested in certain facets of their game being "real". No one who plays RPGs wants absolute realism. They might want enough rules on vehicle construction and combat to fit an entire 200-page manual, but they sure as hell don't want a 200 page manual of complex rules on cooking or going to the bathroom.

Which gets us back to 'simulation'. Most RPGs are emulations. I don't disagree with that at all, on the contrary, I think there's no such thing as an RPG that isn't an emulation. The thing is, almost every RPG is either an emulation of a literary or fantasy genre (fantasy in the sense of an unreal psychological fantasy, not swords&sorcery type fantasy); NOT an emulation of actual reality. So even in an RPG like Shadowrun, you want combat rules to be "simulations" of what you think of in your head when you think "cool cyberpunk battles with high-tech guns blazing all over the place", not what would be a real firefight.

Even in historical setting RPGs, the most arguably "realistic" of all, you are still looking for emulation of a fantasy, not emulation of historical fact. You are looking, when you run a campaign based entirely on the historical Roman Empire, to do "I Claudius" with scheming senatorial politics, or legionaries conquering Gaul; not to be a Roman peasant dying at 28 from dysentery.

So even games where the emphasis APPEARS to be on realism is really only looking to be an accurate simulation of CERTAIN memes that make the particular fantasy emulation you want to achieve work. You might want really detailed "realistic" information on psychology and mental illness if you're running Call of Cthulhu; whereas if you're running a game set in the wild west you probably only need a moderately detailed set of rules for psychology, if any. So what you're talking about is DETAIL, not realism.

In fact, this is often one of the things that fucks up RPGs, either on the level of the system itself or on how people run it. If you are doing an RPG about post-apocalyptic road warriors a lá Mad Max, you probably WANT to have really detailed vehicle combat rules. On the other hand, if you're doing an rpg about a modern-day occult conspiracy, having 200 pages of vehicle design&combat rules will probably get in the way, be a needless waste of space, and kill your game's "feel" if you try to actually implement those rules.

Even in situations where it might be appropriate to have detail, you don't want "realism" that kills the fun. I remember with no fondness whatsoever my first and only experience of "actual play" with Rolemaster. It was a game of "Spacemaster" (I think that's what the sci-fi rolemaster rules were called?) with a DM who was a great believer in the "realism" of the rolemaster system and an absolute stickler to those rules. We spent nearly two hours making characters for the game, started out on a spaceship going to some planet. The DM made a bunch of rolls cross-referencing the near-endless book of tables, informed us that the starship we were in hit a meteor, and we all died. End of game.

Was it realistic? I'm not sure. Was it complex? Very. Did it totally suck donkey balls? Yes.

On the other hand, nothing would fuck up a game about futuristic Giant Robot pilots than having a one-die-roll resolution system for all Mecha piloting and combat. If you have dedicated as many pages to swordfights and swordfighting maneuvers as you have to gunfights in your wild west game, you better have a damn good reason for doing so. In other words, the areas of simulation you choose to apply a lot of detail to are the areas that the game is expected to emphasize in play.

Again, Shadowrun contains an excellent example of this. Why are Riggers important in the world of Shadowrun? Because there are sophisticated rules dedicated to Rigging. If Shadowrun had never had sophisticated rules on Rigging, it could still have existed as a game, you just wouldn't have anyone playing Riggers and it would be assumed that vehicle piloting was not an important aspect of the Shadowrun setting/game.

What you choose to make detailed in an RPG determines what will be important in that RPG.

So there is NO RPG out there that attempts to be truly "realistic" or a real "simulation" of real life. "REALITY: The RPG" would in fact be a gigantic manual with thousands of pages where the rules were EQUALLY SOPHISTICATED for every aspect of your PC's existence, from reading a book to going to the bathroom to cooking noodles, to driving a car, to getting in a knifefight. That would be "realism". That would also be boring and unplayable as all fuck.

Fortunately, no one really wants that. What one wants is DETAIL, where and when detail is appropriate. It makes sense that most RPGs dedicate one or more entire chapters to combat, while dedicating no more than a few lines if any to cooking. Because most people want to play a game where there will be a genuine expectation of conflict, but not a genuine expectation of an Iron Chef competition in every adventure. If someone wanted to make "Iron Chef: The Cookery" RPG, then you would expect that RPG to have an entire chapter or more dedicated to cooking, and only a couple of lines if any dedicated to combat rules.


Currently smoking: Ben Wade Canadian + Image Latakia

(originally posted July 27 2005)

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Everyjoe Tuesday... er, Thursday!: Jeremy Clarkson Edition

Yes, two Urbanski articles in one week! Since he's kind of Everjoe's own personal Jeremy-clarkson, who better to write about it?

So the The progressive middle-managers have always despised Jeremy Clarkson, despised Top Gear, and despised the 98.7% of their viewers, for not liking what the managers TELL them they should like.
What was really fascinating in all this was seeing just what percentage of the public support that Collectivist mentality.  As it turns out, it's 3.2%.

Go, check out the article! Share the article! Bitch at me on the article! Whatever you want. But go do it there!!


Currently Smoking: Castello 4K Collection Canadian + Image Latakia

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

What would YOU want ME to Write Next?

So I'm done with writing Dark Albion: The Rose War.  My part of it is done, in any case; now that the writing bit is finished, the rest is up to Dominique Crouzet to do what I am quite certain (based on what I've already seen of it) will turn out to be truly excellent work of layout, illustrations, editing and publishing the game.  It's going to kick ass.

But now I'm at the point where I'm in-between projects, and so I thought I'd check with you, my readers, as to what you feel the Pundit should do next.  So here's a short questionairre that you should feel free to answer, in part or in full, and tell me what you'd pay good money to see:

If I could end up working with any publisher at all in the hobby, which publisher would you really want to see me do something for, and what would it be?

If I were to do a collaboration with any other RPG writer, who would you most want to see me working with, and on what?

If I were to do something of my own, with any old publisher ending up publishing it, what would you most want to see me write?

Finally, if I were to work as a consultant on any specific project or for any RPG product line or publisher in general, who or what would you love to see me giving my 2 cents to (or putting a hatchet to, if you prefer) to radically help redesign?

So there you are, some questions for you to answer, creatively or not, seriously or not, realistically or in your wildest dreams.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Horn + Gawith's Navy Flake

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Everyjoe Tuesday: Venezuela Edition

Today:  Why would Venezuela's government embrace an economic plan that had ruined every other country that ever tried it? Why would Argentina see that and then try to copy them?  And why DIDN'T Uruguay?

What are the ingredients that lead to a Marxist-Populist Apocalypse? And can it happen where you live?

Check out the details from someone living in the region: what happened that caused Venezuela's Marxist Apocalypse, and Could it Happen Where YOU Live?

Please spread the word, send links, etc.  Thanks!  Oh, and please go comment over there, not here. 


Currently Smoking:  Brigham Anniversary Pipe + Image Latakia

Monday, 23 March 2015

Blue Rose is Meaningless Until Someone Has Played it Longer Than The RPGPundit

So the big news in the Tabletop RPG world today is that Green Ronin has announced a kickstarter for the return of Blue Rose.

Take a look at the link, first of all, then then let's see if any of you assholes want to keep trying to pretend that Blue Rose wasn't in fact ideologically motivated, as some Swine had recently tried to argue it wasn't.  There's the Green Ronin folk, talking about how this time they want to make it EVEN MORE ideological.

And sadly, that means that it will be even less nuanced. It will be even more of a black-and-white statement of "Seattle/Portland-style white hipster college-educated liberal" narratives (I hesitate to call them 'values') are OBJECTIVELY TRUE AND GOOD, while any view that contradicts that worldview is clearly and OBJECTIVELY EVIL IN THE GAME".

(people already believed this back in 2005, but they didn't routinely ruin other people's lives over it)

Pramas and Lindroos are right: a lot has changed since 2005.  My position on gay marriage hasn't, I was strongly in favor of it (inasmuch as one can be in favor of it while thinking marriage as an institution is kind of stupid, but I'm in favor of anyone's right to get married to anyone else who wants to get married to them) back then and I'm strongly in favor of it now, but meanwhile he rest of the world has caught up on that. And that's a change for the better.  But there's also been big changes for the worse, especially in geek culture:  the discord caused by pseudo-activists and absolutists has since that time resulted in witch-hunts and pogroms, in censorship and language-police and thought control, and outright smear-campaigns, slander and character-assassination, including not two weeks ago where on a Blue Rose rpgnet thread that may have been viral marketing on GR's part it was repeatedly claimed by people who KNEW THEY WERE LYING (because they responded to me on G+, and their response made it clear that they knew it wasn't true, they didn't care that it wasn't true, and they were just going to keep lying anyways) that I was a homophobe and hated BR for homophobic reasons.

There's been a strong and increasingly effective effort to stifle any dissent from the ideological view of a tiny group of people who want to impose their values on everyone else, because they feel they are superior to the unwashed masses and should decide for all of us.  The geek culture in 2015 has become a world, in other words, that is a lot more like the fantasy-utopia that the people at Green Ronin told us they wanted back then: a world where if you disagreed with the Elite Collectivists you were branded "SHADOW!" and kept black-balled, censored, and where any argument to change the system would be punishable by exile.

(a fine point, Mr. Twain... but then again, on Aldis you'd be SHADOW ALIGNMENT for your views and exiled if you tried to change the system, and to the authors of the setting this is objectively presented as a good thing!)

Aldis is a fascist setting. It's a totalitarian setting that practices oppression in the name of social utopia; and in exactly the same way the kind of true-believers the Blue Rose setting was created for have, in the past 10 years, gone on to try to impose the same Thought-Control Dystopia on their hobby.

I'm sure Blue Rose will get funded, by that same small group of elites who will feel all smug for themselves for supporting it and then never actually play it.   Because that's what this is about: feeling smug. Feeling self-righteous for wearing the right button on your shirt so everyone can see how 'socially aware' you are, even if you don't actually give a shit about the 'issue' itself.

I mean, consider this: as far as I know, and no one has ever come around to contradict me on this, I (the RPGPundit) have actually run the longest single Blue Rose campaign of all time (at about 130 six-to-eight hour sessions played weekly).  Of course, it wasn't set in Aldis.  It was set in a much grungier place, inspired by the "Port Blacksand" of the old fighting-fantasy books, and so was a mix of Romantic Fantasy tropes with that Lieber/Moorcock/Theives-world style of fantasy.   It was awesome, obviously way better than BR's existing setting.

Still, one has to appreciate the irony that I've never been able to find anyone who used the Blue Rose rulebook in actual play for as long as I have.  And for me, I'll note, 2.5 years is not even a "long" campaign. It's medium.

The Pseudo-Activists think that making the 'statement' of supporting Blue Rose is important.  Green Ronin is banking on that to make money, which is one thing they obviously care about, but also to reposition themselves back in the center of the whole Pseudo-Activist hobby crowd of people who complain about RPGs, who hate RPG culture very publicly on rpgnet, G+ and elsewhere, who call for boycotts and censorship of the people who are designated The Enemy (whether or not they've actually done anything at all, other than not fawn over them as a group), and who notoriously and very clearly do not actually do much RPG playing.
They think the statement of bringing back Blue Rose's setting (which was always a stupid setting, not very playable, and as it's biggest crime wasn't even very good at being similar to the genre of Romantic Fantasy it claimed to emulate; most Romantic Fantasy involves relatively un-utopian societies and young typically-female protagonists struggling against the unfairness of that prejudiced society; whereas Blue Rose was not so much a "romantic fantasy" setting as a "Hipster Wiccan Utopia" setting) is super-duper important for.. reasons. For something they think it represents. To strike a blow against the RPG hobby (which, again, they hate; no matter how much they try to claim they don't, if most of your 'criticism' would only be solved by completely tearing down everything about the hobby and replacing it with totally different stuff, that means you don't so much 'love' a hobby as you wish it would stop existing).  To show how meaningful and progressive the backers are. Whatever. Anything, anything except actually having to play it for more than 2 or 3 sessions!

That's why no gamer should take these assholes seriously.  Never mind the pretentiousness, never mind the smugness, never mind the fascist tendencies, never mind the repugnant Collectivist insistence that they know better for you what should happen in and for your life. Never mind the hipster bullshit, never mind the utopian naivete. Never mind the Trust-fund-baby Privilege or the weaponization of minorities by white middle-class college-graduates.  No.  While all those others are good reasons, from a gamer's point of view, the biggest reason not to take Blue Rose seriously at all is that these people produce games that none of them intend or care to play.   They produce games as "Art", as "Statements", as anything at all other than games.

If the flagship game of your great mission has been played longer (maybe 10 times longer) by the person you most despise on earth than by any of your allies, then y'all might want to wonder about just how you're defining 'success' here, and consider why it is you're so worried about 'changing' a hobby you barely participate in.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario Rhodesian + C&D's Pirate Kake

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Terry Pratchett And Libertarian Thought

So, no time today, I'm off to the market and then to a House of Cards marathon, but I thought I'd leave you all with this very interesting article about the Libertarian ideas inherent in the recently-deceased Terry Pratchett's writing.



Currently Smoking: Gigi Bent Billiard + Image Perique

Saturday, 21 March 2015

10th Anniversary Classic Rant: On Realism

I have news for you Virginia: there is NO such thing as "realism" in an RPG. There's blatant and grotesque unrealism, at times, but there ain't no system out there that is really "realistic".

For much of RPGs history it has been misconstrued that realism means making very complicated and unwieldy rules. But this doesn't create realism, it just creates crappy systems.
In fact, not only is "realism" absent in any RPG, but its not even possible to define what realism SHOULD be. I've had self-defined "weapons experts" (usually grotesquely obese dudes who've watched a lot of Rambo films and may have gone to a gun show once) tell me that X weapons should be effective at no more than 20 yards, others say the same weapon could be effective at 200 yards. I've had one dude tell me that "realistically" a dagger should do just as much damage as any bullet, since he "knows how to stab a guy in a way that does WAY more damage than a gunshot".

I still hate to think about what THAT guy masturbates to at night.

Some people have told me that a well placed blow from a trained hand-to-hand fighter could drop a man instantly, other people tell me that "realistically" its almost impossible to actually knock someone out in one or even two or three punches.

So basically, all the so-called experts are full of shit.

What they define as "real" is just whatever suits their own deluded fantasies of how things work, and almost always an argument about realism from them is really an excuse to show off their "expertise" in "real" combat, firearms, technical training or physics. In other words, its a massive dick-waving contest that accomplishes nothing.

Hell, if you were to be really and truly "realistic", any time your PC was shot or stabbed you should fall to the ground and bleed. That's basically it. You shouldn't be able to keep fighting, score the critical and take down the bad guy. Forget that shit. You get hit, you are down. Or pissing yourself and running away, at the very best. And don't give me that Rambo bullshit about how "people" have been trained to fight when injured blah blah blah. The REAL cop, gangster, street fighter or soldier, when shot or stabbed, does NOT in fact go on to whoop ass; he goes on to drown in a pool of his own blood and urine.

THAT is realism.

And what that means is that in an RPG, "realism" isn't really a goal. You don't really want realism. No one does. You may want grittiness. You might want a complicated game that suits your own preference for complex rather than simple systems; you might want games that follow a genre or thematic you enjoy. But not realism.

All of you, Swine and otherwise, listen up because I'M ONLY GOING TO SAY THIS ONCE, FUCKERS: None of your pet RPGs are "realistic". D20 isn't realistic, GURPS isn't realistic, WoD is only realistic in the sense that bad adolescent poetry is "realistic", Warhammer isn't realistic, Call of Cthulhu isn't realistic (and while I'm at it, THERE IS NO FUCKING "REAL" NECRONOMICON.. the paperback you bought on Amazon will not let you speak with Nyarlathotep and Lovecraft was a smart but troubled writer, not the fucking "grand high wizard" of the secret society of assmasters or whatever, and that aging balding goth guy you met in the Vampire LARP who tells you he knows the "real" Elder Sign just wants to get in your pants), Star Wars is not realistic (and saying your religion is "jedi" is fucking retarded; try studying some of the real religious teachings of which the Jedi are a cheap-ripoff), and whatever other "favorite" game you might have is not realistic.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia

(originally posted July 5th 2005)